Some three hours ago, like many of you, I was watching the 45th Presidential inauguration. As tempting as it may be to delve into political analysis, I'll hold myself back. Instead let's focus on a few words of ...the M.C., Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. I found a few words that he said to be very insightful. "Washington believed the inauguration of the second President would be more important than the inauguration of the first."

How true. What he meant was that is was unheard of that a government should willingly hand over power. 

I'd like to focus on the first part of what he said - that the second inauguration was more important than the first, and perhaps use it as a tip for remaining passionate for what we do.


Life is full of "inaugurations" - meaningful events that have a lasting impact on our lives. Be it a job or relationship, these events make us who we are. How do we remain excited about these events, and stay passionate about them?

When do we usually look for ways to retain passion? After we've been at it for a while. If someone is looking to be excited after a first date, then conventional wisdom would say they've really got a problem. It's only after years of marriage, or years on the job, when it becomes normal to lack passion, and thus we start looking for ways to keep it up.

In Jewish thought there are two types of passion or inspiration:

1) Inspiration from above.

2) Inspiration from below.

Inspiration from above is like the passion after a first date, or at the beginning of a marriage. The sheer novelty of the experience is enough to excite. But since it's an excitement resulting from the novelty alone, it can be a shallow, fleeting excitement that fades as soon as that feeling of novelty ends.

Inspiration from below is the result of work and involved effort. It's excitement that results precisely because you've been at it for a while. It's a sense of deep appreciation and understanding that causes the excitement.

Inspiration from below lasts far longer, because it's something you've worked at and achieved on your own.

"First inaugurations" are important. It's important to be excited the first day on the job or after the first date. That sense of freshness is essential.

Yet the "second inaugurations" are more important than the first. When we work at something for years, never giving up and persisting through thick and thin, that's when true appreciation, passion, excitement and enjoyment happens.

This also reminds me of this week's Torah portion, where we begin reading about the Egyptian slavery. 80 years later the Jews were freed, and got the Torah at Mt. Sinai. They seemingly were all set! But no,right afterwards G‑d sent the Jews to Israel to start working, working hard, to build their country. They were eventually expelled from Israel and dispersed. It would be very difficult to remain Jewish throughout those tumultuous events.

The exodus from Egypt was a gift from heaven, as exciting as it was. But in order for the Jews to have a true passion about their lives, G‑d wanted the Jews to build their own destiny and not have it chartered for them. 

So perhaps instead of always thinking about how to retain the passion that we used to have when just starting out, look instead for ways to discover the pleasure of commitment, that huge compilation of small acts of kindness and persistence that accumulate over the years.

 

Rabbi Avrohom